Ahead of the Xbox 720 (codename Durango) launch on 21 May, we've rounded up all the rumours and gossip around Mircosoft's next generation console.
Concept art of the next Xbox, codenamed Durango, also known as 720. (Credit: Segment Next)
According to unnamed sources there are now more unconfirmed Xbox rumours on the internet than there are actual facts in the world.
The mill has spun up big time since the PlayStation 4 launch in February. Now that Sony's fired the starting pistol on the next generation console race, consumers and journalists are looking to see how Microsoft is going to catch up.
So far, though, despite talk of release dates, launch games and a new Kinect, the only official word on the new Xbox is a press invite from Microsoft. There have been leaks and LinkedIn profiles - there have been people quoted who are "close to the project" - but no one has put their name to any solid information.
The most quoted source for Xbox hardware details is SuperDaE, aka Dan Henry, a hacker from Perth who contacted Kotaku in February with alleged specs for an Xbox Durango. Henry is supposedly the same person who last year listed a Durango development kit on eBay (the sale was apparently blocked by Microsoft) and he told Kotaku that the console would have a 8-core, 64-bit CPU running at 1.6GHz. It would also include a Blu-ray drive and come with 500GB of hard drive space as standard.
The next Xbox would also be Wi-Fi enabled, unlike the Xbox 360, which requires an adapter to connect to the internet.
Though the site didn't name a source, a month before the Kotaku article, VG Leaks published the same list of hardware specs, as well as a system block layout, showing how the Durango is put together beneath its outer casing.
The most recent update on Xbox specs comes from Bloomberg, which published more details on 9 April. Quoting sources with "knowledge of the matter," Bloomberg's story explained that the Xbox Durango would use a totally different system architecture to the Xbox 360, rendering it backwards incompatible. This x86 architecture is supposedly the same structure as used in the PlayStation 4, with AMD now providing its 8-core "Jaguar" processing chips to both consoles.
Microsoft has not confirmed or denied any of this information.
The information from SuperDaE/VG Leaks also suggests that the next Xbox will ship with a new version of Kinect included in the box. "Kinect 2.0" as it's tentatively called will be an improvement on the existing controller in that it will track 25 as opposed to 20 joints in your skeleton, allowing for more sensitive motion controls.
Another rumour is that the Kinect will always have be connected to the next Xbox in order for you to play; so that Microsoft can more tightly integrate motion controls into games, the Durango won't work unless the Kinect is hooked up. Given a lot of complaints that motion controls right now feel like a gimmick and an extra, this would be Microsoft's bid to get developers working the Kinect more centrally into their games.
Last is a vaguely troubling patent filed by Microsoft in April, 2011. The "Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User" technology would allow the Kinect to scan the faces of whoever was sat in front of it. The idea would be to tailor and limit games and videos to individuals.
Orwellian stuff, but who knows?
The Xbox Durango development kit as it appeared on eBay. (Credit: Kotaku)
Even the rumour mongers have been pretty schtum on Durango games. The best information we've had so far comes from The Verge, which chatted to sources "familiar" with Microsoft's plans and learned that four launch titles for the console were in the works. Ryse is the most intriguing. A sword-fighting sim by CryTek, it's already been confrimed via a teaser trailer from E3 2011.
Though it looks relatively pedestrian, the fact that it's completely motion controlled ties into those rumours that the Kinect will be tightly integrated into the next Xbox. It's coming from the makers of Crysis, too; perhaps Microsoft has managed to convince more heavyweight developers to utilise the Kinect.
Other than that, info is thin. The Verge was told a new Forza game would launch with the Durango, along with unspecified "zombie" and "family" games. It's also been said that the Microsoft Points system will be done away with, allowing customers to buy things from the XBLA using real currency, the same as with the PlayStation Store.
Again, though, this is all talk: Microsoft has said nothing.
Backwards compatibility, always-online and second hand games
Firstly, on backwards compatibility: The most recent update is that Bloomberg report on the new x86 architecture, which tells us that, no, you won't be able to play your old 360 games on the Xbox 720, not via physical discs anyway.
The six people who didn't fall asleep or leave during the PS4 launch will remember Sony's partnership with GaiKai, and how PS3, PS2 and PS1 games will be available on the PS4 digitally via instant streaming.
Though Microsoft has given no word on this, it did recently sell its internet television service, Mediaroom, to Ericsson, saying that the future of its TV output will be on Xbox. With the company throwing all its television ambitions behind the Xbox, perhaps the Durango will feature improved game streaming, too.
There's no official word on second-hand games or always-online from Microsoft but Xing Interactive boss David Connolly claims to have talked with people working on the 720, who have confirmed that the console will indeed by always online and that it won't play games that aren't verified by unique authentification keys.
"You'll have to go through Microsoft to do anything," Connolly told NowGamer. Sad news if true, but as analysts have said, a necessary evil to combat rising development costs.
Ryse, one of the titles expected to launch with the Xbox Durango. (Credit: CryTek)
So when will it launch?
We originally thought the next Xbox would be unveiled at E3 2013, between 11 June and 13 June. However, Microsoft has finally shown its hand with an official invite to an event at its Redmond campus on 21 May, where it will "mark the beginning of a new generation of games, TV, and entertainment."
The next Xbox will likely go on sale before the end of 2013, not just because it needs to compete with the PS4, which is launching in Asia and the US before Christmas, but because for once, Microsoft employees have confirmed it, sort of.
The LinkedIn profile of Maxwell Churchill, an ex-visual designer, lists "Xbox 2013" among his work history, hinting that the console will launch later this year. System validation engineer Rishi Jain has also confirmed that the new console is in development: His profile says he's been "working on the next-gen Xbox."
So, later in 2013 for the new Xbox, it seems.
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